This evaluation will assess:
- how the European Social Fund (ESF) promotes social inclusion (integrating disadvantaged people into society and ensuring fairer life opportunities for all) and combats poverty/discrimination;
- structural reforms;
- the visibility, usefulness, relevance, value for money and effectiveness of ESF measures.
As basis for Public Consultation planned for Q3 2019.
Submitted online on 16 January 2019. See our evaluation here.
The European Social Fund (ESF) is a major financial instrument to help pursue the Europe 2020 strategy’s objectives for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, building up a more social Europe, guided by the European Pillar of Social Rights, and in line with the European Semester. Well-functioning health systems across Europe are central to meeting the headline targets of this strategic vision, particularly those relating to employment, education and social inclusion performance. For EuroHealthNet, ESF represents a valuable instrument to reduce health inequalities between and within EU Member States and further boost investments in structural determinants of health, health promotion and disease prevention measures.
Income and wealth inequality, and the associated levels of health inequalities are persistent and growing in many EU countries. Most EU Member States systematically allocate more than the required 20% of the ESF national resources to promote “social inclusion, combating poverty and any discrimination”(1), showing more ambitious investments are needed to address common social challenges. Evidence from EU funded initiatives that EuroHealthNet has been involved in (ESIF for Health(2), Equity Action(3)) and feedback from our members reflect how ESF can be used to make an impact on social inclusion and the reduction of poverty through action in the areas of health and wellbeing. They reflect that ESF is applied across the EU on a range of initiatives that e.g. improve the provision and quality of health and social care, incl. health promoting services, and strengthen capacities within these systems to provide accessible and quality services, particularly for socially vulnerable people. In many cases, these measures also boost cooperation between health and other key sectors.
Only a fraction of ESF funds are however currently being spent on such actions, and more can be done to maximise the impact of ESF in these areas, and to society at large. More can for example be done to raise awareness amongst professionals in other keys sectors like health about the funds, and to build capacities to enable them to engage, both strategically and practically. Furthermore, the administrative burden of obtaining and administering the funds should be reduced, including for smaller (civil society) organisations that are nevertheless crucial service providers and economic actors. In addition, projects cannot just of themselves deliver systemic change; they must be part of a broader strategy that aims to do this. The EU and its MS must in this respect acknowledge that social policy, health policy, environmental policy and economic outcomes are tightly inter-related, and encourage the implementation of strategies and programmes that deliver co-benefits across sectors. MS must therefore be encouraged to combine the use of EU funds for greater impact, and to invest as much in people (services, capacity building, learning exchange, awareness) as in hard infrastructure projects, as Slovenia and Latvia (4) have done by combining EDRF and ESF to achieve national strategic objectives.
Looking to the future EU budget and its ESF+, we call on these to emphasise the need to address inequalities in our societies, with a focus on fairness, vulnerability and early years. Performance indicators should, in addition, be applied that are aligned to the Social Scoreboard and were possible the SDG indicators, and other reputable measures of equity and wellbeing (5).
1. Regulation No. 1304/2013
2. Mc.Guinn J, Ganche M et al. ESIF for For Health. Investing for a healthy and inclusive EU. Milieu, 2018
3. Stegeman, I, Kuipers Y. Health Equity and Regional Development in the EU, Applying the EU Structural Funds, EuroHealthNet, 2013
4. EuroHealthNet Online Magazine, 2018 summer edition
5. A Healthy Budget? Analysis of the MFF 2021-27, EuroHealthNet